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Bridging the Digital Divide: How Connected for Success means greater independence for Canadians living with disabilities

Rogers Connected for Success — the Canadian first-of-its-kind reliable, high-speed, low-cost Internet program — helps to bridge the digital divide for those who need it the most and offers speed options to support evolving connectivity needs.  Recently, Rogers proudly expanded the program to newly qualifying customers receiving disability benefits, income support, or seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement. 

As we close out National AccessAbility Week 2021, we asked Sandi Kleinman, Regional Services Coordinator at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario about the impact of accessible programs like Connected for Success, and what this means for Canadians living with disabilities.

Why is it so important for Canadians with disabilities to have access to reliable and affordable Internet? What added barriers do they face (ie. fixed income on disability benefits)?

Though we were already aware, the pandemic reminded us that connectivity is key in today’s world—for everyone.  We have come to realize that internet and cell phones are vital for our safety and well-being as we go about daily life.  Internet is how we obtain news and information, stay connected to family and friends, attend medical appointments, support groups, social programs, counselling, order groceries, do banking—just about everything.

Living with a disability poses some extra challenges. The expense associated with living with a disability is just one of the challenges.  For example, there are the added costs associated with equipment, supplies and sometimes personal support and therapies. For many of our clients receiving social assistance, the costs of internet and cell phones poses an additional financial burden.

How has Rogers expanded eligibility of Connected for Success for those with disabilities benefitted the clients you support?

Previously, CFS was only for those individuals who were living in participating rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing projects.  While that was helpful for some, it is important to remember there are so many individuals and families who receive social assistance but are on wait lists to get into to RGI housing.  These wait lists are years long. In the meantime, these individuals are burdened with paying market rents and often cannot afford internet, cell phone plans and cell phones. This limits access to news, education, employment opportunities, medical appointments, and connection to peers, friends and family.  Now with the expanded CFS program, all qualifying individuals can have the financial load lifted by having services which are within their financial capabilities.  CFS has been a relief for those who have been able to participate.

During COVID-19, Internet has been a critical link to keep Canadians connected to what matters most, from working or learning from home, e-commerce during stay-at-home orders, and keeping in touch safely with family and friends.  How have Canadians with disabilities weathered this pandemic?

The pandemic has been very hard on all of us.  For individuals with disabilities, it has magnified the existing daily challenges.  The isolation, the changes to essential services and hospital services, the fear of contracting COVID-19 from caregivers, the shortage of caregivers, supply chain issues–these are only a few of the things our clients have had to deal with.  The mental health issues that come with all this rapid change have followed.  By reducing the financial burden, increasing access to information and increasing connection with family, friends, professionals and others, Rogers CFS has served to help our clients at this very difficult time.

Connected for Success is just one of the ways Rogers is committed to bridging the digital divide to meet critical connectivity needs in our communities – and foster AccessAbility for even more Canadians. 

How to Apply:

Eligible customers can apply through the Connected for Success website and they must provide verification that they are receiving government financial assistance under one of the five qualifying programs. A Rogers customer experience specialist will then contact every qualified customer to do a needs assessment to determine which speed best meets their household’s needs, noting the program provides free installation and modem rental, unlimited data and no credit checks.  This personalized experience will ensure the unique needs of every customer are met, including online schooling, accessing online social supports and job searches, attending virtual medical appointments, and combatting social isolation by staying connected to loved ones virtually. 

It is available everywhere Rogers offers Internet service in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.